CILIPS Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland
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Public #LibrariesAreEssential

  • Click here to read our Open Letter to all Councils and Trusts that provide library services in Scotland, highlighting the importance of ensuring funding and resources are in place for libraries to reopen and once again become the beating hearts of their communities
  • ‘For many children in our community, the library is a second home. The staff and I want them and the rest of the community to flourish.’ Muirhouse Library Holiday Breakfast Club provides physical and psychological nourishment for vulnerable young people. Click here to read the case study.
  • Stockbridge Library’s Audio Book Group supports members of the library community who have visual impairments to share their love of reading with like-minded others, and the group even managed to continue online throughout lockdown. Click here to read the case study.
  • In European countries with more public and community libraries, evidence suggests that people spend more time reading. Even 30 minutes reading a week is linked to positive health and wellbeing outcomes including better self-esteem, stress reduction, better sleep, reduced feelings of loneliness and stronger emotional intelligence. In fact, reading for just six minutes a day can decrease stress levels by up to 68%!
  • ‘They’re a pathway to accurate information, a gateway into other cultures, a chance for people to use computers. They’re a warm reading space for people in cold flats, a meeting place for fellow-readers. They’re the place where a trained librarian will help you through difficult forms, or give you a book that will change your thinking, maybe your life…’ author Marsali Taylor highlights the variety of essential functions that a public library can provide. Click here to read on…
  • ‘This project was important as the young people’s voices were heard…’ Craigmillar Library supported Castlebrae Community High School pupils with their Junior Award Scheme for Schools programme: conducting research, delivering presentations and even creating clay tiles in a craft project inspired by local history. Click here to read the case study.
  • East Renfrewshire Libraries tackle social isolation and digital exclusion in their community through Virtually Together – running a mixture of library and community-based events in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support, HSCP, Mearnskirk Helping Hands and Barrhead Housing Association to let participants experience virtual reality for the first time. Click here to read the case study.
  • ‘Libraries are often at the heart of the community and have a reputation for being inclusive and welcoming. I realised that participating in this initiative reinforces how essential our services are…’ South Lanarkshire Libraries have partnered with I AM ME SCOTLAND to designate their libraries as ‘Keep Safe’ spaces in the community. Click here to read the case study.
  • Supporting the Connecting Scotland project, which aims to get 50,000 digitally excluded Scottish households online by the end of 2021, Elgin Library Learning Centre distributes iPads and Chromebooks to local families at risk of digital isolation. One family they have helped so far includes a young woman hoping to study medicine, and many other children and young people would be at risk of falling behind in their studies were it not for the library delivering the devices and offering training with how to use them. Click here to read the case study.
  • Aberdeen Libraries also rose to the occasion when the pandemic forced them to temporarily close their physical doors, creating online content for young people including an introduction to video editing skills. Between April 2020 and February 2021, their weekly interactive videos were viewed 31,500 times!
  • Nevertheless, traditional library services were sorely missed by their communities during the spring 2020 lockdown. This Scottish Book Trust blog shared the views of many readers who couldn’t wait to get back to normal. ‘The library was one of my essential life services,’ noted one contributor. ‘After lockdown I will be delighted to get back. My local library does some amazing things for new mums, school children on a Friday and older groups.’ Another voiced their frustrations with the fact that ‘by buying my books rather than borrowing, I have only bought what I knew I would enjoy… Before lockdown, when I borrowed from the library, I was more experimental – I would try a wide variety of authors and genres, and if I didn’t enjoy a book I simply returned it.’
  • From March to December 2020, more than 8,400 people signed up to become new members of Glasgow Libraries, demonstrating the essential role of libraries in providing education, entertainment and even escape for their communities in these challenging circumstances. 200 existing Glasgow Libraries members also took the time to share their insights into why their local library is so essential in their lives. ‘I really need the library due to my mental health,’ noted one user, ‘and I really missed seeing people. All the staff have been amazing and made me feel safe and welcomed.’ Many other members echoed those encouraging comments, with one adding that ‘I use the library daily. I missed the contact with staff and using the computers. The staff in Drumchapel Library make it a wonderful place to visit.’
  • Across the UK, this pattern of people turning to libraries during the pandemic was replicated, with an overall 600% increase in digital memberships and a fourfold increase in the number of e-Books borrowed.
  • ‘Scotland’s libraries are often hubs of local communities. They are a vital resource for many older people across the country and have long been a safe space, not only for accessing books and reference materials but also trusted information sources and computer technology.’ Brian Sloan, Chief Executive of Age Scotland, articulates why public libraries are essential to supporting Scotland’s older citizens. Click here to read on…
  • The Scottish Household Survey 2019 found that going to the library is the most common cultural activity in Scotland for people to take part in at least once a week, with 19% of adults who visit their local library going at least once every week. The survey noted that 75% of adults in Scotland participated in a cultural activity in the past twelve months; if we exclude reading, this number falls to 52%. 9/10 library users described themselves as ‘very’ or ‘fairly satisfied’ with the service, and the survey recognised that satisfaction with libraries in Scotland ‘has tended to be high’ for over a decade. Significantly, satisfaction amongst library service users was unaffected by levels of deprivation, indicating that the essential benefits from libraries are universal for Scots.
  • But it’s not all about the books – 25% of people in Scotland who visit their public library at least one a month ‘rarely or never’ read the books. Instead, they take up the many other services and opportunities offered by local libraries – from IT access and job-hunting advice to children’s activities and breakfast clubs, in addition to support for those affected by health conditions like cancer or dementia.
  • As the Carnegie UK Shining a Light report stated, ‘the best public libraries enable citizens to fulfil their potential and act as a trusted and safe civic space that enables engagement and participation’.
  • ‘Thanks to the library acting as a centre for the project, we were able to come together and have a far more meaningful impact than any one of us would have had alone…’ It’s not just human lives that depend on libraries: many also help our animal companions! Learn more with this case study about Blantyre Library’s animal foodbank.
  • Perhaps that’s why 65% of Scots ‘strongly oppose’ trained library staff being replaced by volunteers, with a further 17% ‘tending to oppose’ the idea. This was the most emphatic rejection of the suggestion anywhere in the UK, indicating that Scottish citizens care especially deeply about their libraries continuing to be staffed by a trained and dedicated workforce.
  • Statistically, women are more likely to use libraries and to use them more often, as well as families with children and those either not working or working part-time – and Scotland has the highest library use in the UK! Libraries are therefore well-placed within their communities to help tackle gender inequalities in society, as well as those related to the challenges of childcare and/or unemployment. If Not Now, When? The Social Renewal Advisory Board report January 2021 noted in strong terms (Call to Action 10) that Scotland’s public services ‘should be designed to be inclusive and address barriers faced by women, refugees, older and disabled people, amongst others’. As an essential service already well-used by and supportive of groups of people facing such barriers, public libraries in Scotland are leading by example in this area. Read this blog by CILIPS Membership Officer Kirsten about the vital value of public libraries in supporting Scottish citizens – from providing free prenatal vitamins for expectant mothers to offering accurate, up-to-date support for jobseekers and much more…
  • As If Not Now, When? highlighted (Part 4: Communities and Collective Endeavour), ‘communities are intrinsically linked to places… places are the heart of the community, can provide shared and sustainable access to products and services, have an ability to focus sustainable and local economic and social activity and can deliver enhanced wellbeing through a sense of place, history, wellness and environmental positivity’. Countless contributors to our campaign including Peggy Hughes, Chair of Literature Alliance Scotland, Gillian Docherty OBE, CEO of The Data Lab, and Brian Sloan, Chief Executive of Age Scotland, have all independently described libraries as ‘the heart’ of their communities, and this physical and psychological centrality makes libraries essential spaces where people can come together to flourish.
  • Can you put a price on all that libraries do? An analysis commissioned by Suffolk Libraries proved that every £1 of investment in their libraries returns an incredible £8.04 in social value – with a total of £284,000 worth of social value created for the NHS by essential health and wellbeing services provided by their libraries. The model they used for determining social value – recognised and supported by Social Value UK – aimed to acknowledge the ‘social return on investments’ that comes from library activities by using financial ‘proxies’ to estimate what the benefit of a library service is. Many libraries offer projects, groups or other activities to reduce loneliness and social isolation, for example, and the London School of Economics estimates that unchecked loneliness can cost the state between £1,700 and £6,000 a person per annum due to its correlation with poorer health outcomes. Click here for some of our favourite examples of how Scottish libraries help people to overcome loneliness and feel part of a caring, compassionate community.
  • Public libraries also contribute to the economy through the support they offer to new businesses. The Mitchell Library in Glasgow houses the Business and Intellectual Property Centre Glasgow, part of the Business and IP National Network first established by the British Library in 2006 and aiming to support aspiring business owners through access to extensive market research information, one-to-one consultations, workshops and events. Analysis indicates that 347 new businesses have been created with the Glasgow centre’s support, generating an additional 96 FTE jobs, an additional £1.8 million sales and an additional £840,000 GVA (Gross Value Added) for the economy. Significantly, the Mitchell Library centre also successfully reaches aspiring business owners who are currently under-represented in the sector. 66% of users are women, 16% are from BAME backgrounds and 49% are aged between 16 and 35. 62% of the businesses set up with the centre’s support also have social and/or environmental objectives (p56), reflecting the essential role of libraries in transforming society for the better.
  • Even Covid-19 lockdown won’t stop Scotland’s libraries from connecting with the communities who know and love them. Renfrewshire Libraries, for example, have been offering free library book deliveries to anyone over 70, people with disabilities and families with children. Despite only beginning in February 2021, by March two hundred people had already signed up for the service, with 102 deliveries being made in its first weeks. ‘This is such an important service,’ noted one happy reader, ‘my children are so excited to get new library books again,’ while another described the library staff involved as ‘life savers’.
  • Libraries are supported at the highest level of global politics. ‘When I was a little girl,’ First Lady Dr Jill Biden told the American Library Association in January 2021, ‘I’d walk to our local library every two weeks and take out as many books as I could carry in my arms. I’ll never forget the summer nights my mom would let me stay up way too late so that I could finish just one more chapter… Though so many buildings have had to close, the care, creativity, and guidance that you offer became more important than ever as you supported schools and families who depend on you,’ Dr Biden told her audience. ‘That’s what community is all about… My message to you is to never forget what you’re doing matters. Right now, someone out there is a better thinker because of you. Someone is standing a little taller, because you helped them find the confidence they need. Someone is working harder, because you pushed them to try. And someone is kinder, because you showed them what that meant.’
  • #BibliotekerErVigtige – that’s #LibrariesAreEssential in Danish, of course! The February 2021 report The Impact of Public Libraries in Denmark: a Haven in our Communities (click here for a helpful translation into English) noted that libraries offer a ‘haven’ to citizens and a much-needed break from the everyday, but crucially this quality can mean different things to different people. For some, libraries provide ‘peace and quiet and concentration’, while for others ‘it’s about spending time with together’ (p7). We can’t think of another free, public space that means so much to so many, and 88% of Danish library users also said that libraries are important (dare we say, even essential?) because ‘they offer free and equal access to knowledge and culture’ (p44).

Thank you to our student placement Amy Clarke from the University of Strathclyde for her assistance in creating this evidence bank.

graphic kindly created by Xiaowei Jie

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